Afternoon tea at the Regent, Berlin

Introduction

On Saturday morning I leave my hotel just after 09h00. I have a slot for the Pergamon museum at 10h30, so I figure I might as well walk. And walk. And walk some more.

My hotel is on the rear side of the Tiergarten, in what used to be West Berlin. I decide to take the long route, so I first walk up to the Siegessäule, and then from there through the park and past the Bundestag to the Brandburger Tor. I keep on going through the gate and then continue all the way down Unter den Linden until I hit the Berliner Dom.

The Pergamon museum is right next to the Dom, and totally worth a visit. Currently, the museum is being refurbished and expanded. And I’ll definitely need to come back once it’s done. Because even with many of the exhibits currently inaccessible due to the ongoing construction, it’s still an impressive collection to see.

What I like about this museum, is that they have tried to reconstruct what the exhibits originally looked like, which obviously gives visitors a much better impression of what they’re looking at. The photo below is a reconstruction of the famous Ishtar gate. The decorative animals on the walls are from the original construction.

From the Pergamon museum I first head in the direction of the Alexander Platz, which is currently a bit of a mess as they’re renovating parts of the square.

And then from there I head to the Humboldt Forum, which I guess is to Berlin what the Centre Georges Pompidou is to Paris. Apart from the interesting events and shows they put on at the Humboldt Forum, it’s quite interesting to go up onto the roof of the building, where you have a good view of the city. There’s also a restaurant.

By the time I’m done, it’s already gone 13h and I’m seriously starting to run out of steam. I’m also very hungry. Luckily, I have a reservation for afternoon tea at the Regent Hotel near the Gendarmen Markt, which is only a few minutes away from the Humboldt Forum.

The Regent Berlin

The Regent Berlin sits on the Charlottenstrasse in one of the corners of the Genderamen Markt. From the outside, the building is quite unprepossessing. But once you step into the lobby, it’s a very different story. The afternoon tea is held in a small room with only six tables, so it’s a fairly intimate setting.

The staff are all very nice, and clearly they have been trained well. The head waiter is knowledgeable about tea and suggests I try a few different ones throughout my stay. I first try a First Flush Darjeeling, before moving on to a rather striking & smoky Early Grey.

It’s the perfect pot of tea, nicely flavoured but timed to ensure there isn’t the slightest hint of bitterness in the leaves.

We start with an etagere of savouries on three levels. On top there are canapés of tête de moine cheese and focaccia with chestnut paste.

On the second level, we have a choice of finger sandwiches.

The choices are ham and cheese, boiled egg…

… smoked salmon and cucumber.

And then comes a second etagere with the sweets.

The top tier has a selection of little sweets: a raspberry meringue, a peanut Florentine and a kind of butter cake with lemon curd.

The second level has a plate of berries and fruitcake.

The scones are on the lower plate and they are served nice and warm. What’s more, full brownie points go to the Regent for using real clotted cream and not whipped cream instead.

Conclusion

The afternoon tea at the Regent is a great way to while away a lazy Saturday afternoon when it’s cold and wet outside. The staff are excellent and very welcoming. It’s a great way to take a rest from the toils of shopping and or sightseeing.

The afternoon tea is very popular, and I would strongly suggest you book in advance if you want to experience it. While I was there, several persons were turned down and the couple on the next table inquired about afternoon tea in December, only to be told there were no more slots available until Christmas.

Afternoon tea at the Kempinski

Sadly, Britain’s colonial history really is noting to be proud of. However, among the few positive contributions Britain has made to the world, I would definitely count afternoon tea. I mean, how could anybody not like cucumber sandwiches?

In my time, I have had the privilege of trying many different afternoon teas, such as Raffle’s Hotel in Singapore, or Fortnum & Masons in Piccadilly in London. This time, I am reporting from the Kempinski Engelberg, where I spend the weekend before my birthday.

Afternoon tea at the Kempinski is served in the winter garden, adjacent to the main lobby. The tables are rather low, and the sofas are very soft. But there are many cushions to make sure you’re sitting comfortably while you indulge.

The afternoon tea is served on bright and colourful crockery.

To drink I ask for a pot of Earl Grey tea. I forget to ask what brand the tea is. Which is a shame because it’s certainly very good and has a nice, subtle taste with only a hint of Bergamotte.

First, the sandwiches are served, and there are two squares each of four different types of sandwich: salmon, ham, egg, and cheese with chutney.

Once the sandwiches are removed, a three-tier étagère is served. It includes: two plain scones and two scones with raisins, a selection of sweets and pastries, and a plate with two little sticky toffee puddings.

For the scones, both cherry and raspberry jam are served, which is fine. Although I prefer the more customary strawberry jam. There is also vanilla infused butter, lemon curd and whipped cream.

All things considered, this is not a bad afternoon tea. However, at CHF59 per person I do think it is rather pricey – especially for what you get. There also appears to be a systemic lack of attention to detail among the staff at the Kempinski: there is no sugar on the table, which the staff don’t even notice. The waiter refers to the whipped cream as clotted cream, which a) it simply isn’t, but which b) I think would not be too much to expect given the price for the tea.

The Coul House, Contin near Inverness

In Inverness I am staying at The Coul House, which is roughly forty minutes away from Inverness airport by car.

The Coul House is a lovely country hotel set in a lush and beautifully landscaped park. The rooms overlook the garden and from the upper floor you have an excellent view of the rolling hills in the distance.

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The rooms are nicely appointed. The Coul House is a hotel but it has the cosy look and feel of a family run B&B. Inside everything is decorated in what I can only describe as typically British style, with thick carpets everywhere and heavy curtains draped form the high ceiling.

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The food at the Coul House is very good. They even do a great afternoon tea which is served in the lounge, with a large window overlooking the garden.

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All in all, I can highly recommend the Coul House for a weekend getaway or even if as a base if you are planning on staying in the highlands for a week or so. The owners, Stuart and Susannah, are excellent hosts and very knowledgeable about the area. If you have any questions or need suggestions on things to do and places to visit, you can be sure they will be able to help you out.

And here’s the link to The Coul House.

Weekend in Hong Kong

Afternoon tea at the Peninsula Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui

In every city around the world there are things one does as a tourist, things to see or do, to tick off the list. In London for example, you visit Buckingham Palace and you buy yourself one of those green Harrods branded shopping bags or a teddy bear in the Harrods uniform – very likely because they are just about the only things you are able to afford buying there. Paris is an easy one too: queuing for hours at the bottom of the Eiffel Tower, just to spend ten minutes on the top platform before you realise the wind is in fact ruining your coiffure and that you could really murder a café au lait and a pain au chocolat (that is so awfully parisien…), both of which you can’t get up there.

But please don’t get me wrong. In no way am I trying to make fun of these people, the tourists. After all, people who live in glass houses should not throw stones…

So what is a typically touristy thing to do at the weekend in Hong Kong? Well, I have an appointment with three lovely ladies to have afternoon tea at the Peninsula in Tsim Sha Tsui on the mainland.

There are various options to get from the Conrad on Hong Kong island to the Peninsula on the other side of Victoria harbour. I’ve decided to go for the classic approach, shall we say. I exit the Conrad and walk down to Hennessy Road. I turn left onto Hennessy and keep on walking in a westerly direction towards Central. Eventually Hennessy Road merges with Queensway just before the Bank of China building. From there it’s just a short walk to the IFC and the Star Ferry Terminal beyond.

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The fare for a one way ticket on the Star Ferry is HKD3.40. The crossing only takes a bit more than five minutes and lands you in Tsim Sha Tsui proper, on the southern tip of the Kowloon peninsula, hence the name of the hotel. From there it’s only another five minutes walk to the grand old Peninsula Hotel.

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Just a piece of advice, if I may. Afternoon tea in the Peninsula lobby starts at 14:00 and it is not possible to make reservations. The lobby is usually very busy with people just standing around taking in the grandeur of the building. And at the weekend it’s even worse and the queue for a table at the lobby tearoom is seemingly endless. If however, you’re able to arrive say half an hour earlier and don’t mind having a drink before the afternoon tea, you will be shown to a table immediately, bypassing the queue. And if you happen to still be sitting there when tea starts at 14:00, then obviously you’re very welcome to stay on.

The Peninsula has a large selection of teas and infusions to choose from. The food is served from an étagère. At the bottom are the raisin scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam. The scones are fluffy and light. In the middle you have the savouries, a plate of very tasty cucumber sandwiches, ham sandwiches, mini Quiche Lorraines and small glasses of smoked salmon on a gazpacho. And then on top there are the sweet things, and lots of them too.

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It’s definitely a very pleasant and relaxing way to spend the afternoon – talking, drinking tea and eating. Of course the whole thing is a bit of a cliché, but even so it’s certainly worth it, especially if you’re in good company.

We leave at around 16h30 and I decide to return the same way I came, on the Star Ferry. The good thing about the buildings in Central is that many of them are connected via walkways above the street and many of them are air conditioned to offer some respite from the heat and the extraordinary humidity. From the Star Ferry Pier I walk past the IFC and the Mandarin Oriental into the Prince’s Building. From there I go down to ground and step outside to catch the tram just in front of the HSBC. It’s two or three stop from there to the Conrad. A single journey on the tramway will cost you HKD2.30.

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R., R. and J. thank you for the company. It was nice seeing you again.